Having recently tested some STIHL equipment I was subsequently offered the chance to try out two of STIHL’s top of the range blowers - the BR 450 C-EF petrol backpack blower and a battery powered BGA 200 handheld blower.
I spent the first few days getting to know both blowers, familiarising myself with the different starting sequences and controls, while at the same time checking out the comfort of both harnesses.
It was then a case of putting them through their paces, using them to help clear up various materials off different surfaces – including leaves, debris, litter and lawn scarification matter.
Products under test
The BR 450 C-EF is STIHL’s flagship 2-MIX engine model of their high-performance backpack blowers, fitted with a STIHL ElectroStart button for simple restarting of the blower via the control handle.The unit also features a pull starter with STIHL ErgoStart for getting going at temperatures below 0° C. To suit a range of users and applications, the blower tube length and handle position can be quickly adjusted without tools.
The BGA 200 blower is again one of the company’s flagship models for their cordless range. Part of the AP System and offering a high powerful blowing force (21 N) and high air speed (84 m/s) for professional clearing jobs, the 21 N blowing force on this cordless model is now between the BR 350 (17 N) and BR 450 C-EF (26 N), providing ample blowing power for a professional user. Its low noise means no ear defenders are required during use.
I was able to test both blowers out at a variety of sites and settings while undertaking a wide range of tasks, which included leaf clearance, cleaning up lawn arisings and general path debris.
I also enlisted the help of some local professional gardeners and greenkeepers at Harper Adams University and Lilleshall Golf Club to help test the blowers and gain their thoughts on which blower suited their requirements.
For me, they both do the job very well, however the BR 450 C-EF does provide a little more blowing power (28 N) than the battery powered BGA 200 (21 N) which I found excellent for cleaning up lawn scarification debris.
Both blowers have their own set of pro and cons. The 2-MIX-powered backpack blower is a pleasure to use, is easy to start, benefits from excellent performance and is fully adjustable to suit your needs.
Its 2-stroke engine with 2-MIX technology provides excellent performance and a high volume torque curve. Even with this performance, you can expect low levels of emissions. You can adjust the blowing tube without tools to suit individual cleaning jobs or your particular stature.
A unique benefit of this particular backpack blower is the inclusion of two of STIHL’s popular starting features. STIHL ElectroStart allows you to restart the machine quickly and effortlessly with a simple button push. You can do this using the control handle and without needing to take the machine off your back, saving time, strain and is ideal for short breaks. I found this feature particularly useful.
STIHL ErgoStart meanwhile makes the pull starter facility (useful for starting at temperatures below 0°C) smoother and more reliable, ensuring it starts with a gentle pull.
This is a comfortable machine to use courtesy of the company’s excellent anti-vibration technology. This dampens the oscillations caused by the engine to significantly reduce the otherwise intense vibrations at the handles that can have long-term consequences for the blood vessels in your hands and arms. The multi-function control handle allows easy, thumb-operated control, and the handle is also quickly adjustable without tools to suit your specific preferences.
Like most backpack blowers, this model is heavier (11.5 kg) than a handheld blower and can be cumbersome to pick up and move around. However, once it is on your back it can feel lighter and more comfortable because of the way it is carried, even when used over extended periods of time.
In general it was a joy to use and a real bonus was the fact that once it was warmed up you could easily re-start at a push of a button, along with the fact you can extend the blower tube to suit your needs.
As for the BGA 200 cordless blower, again it did all what the BR 450 C-EF could do, but it was probably just a tad less powerful – although it was again easy and a pleasure to use. It is definitely a lot quieter to use than the 2-MIX model and would no doubt be a useful acquisition if you worked in an environment where you needed to be mindful of making a lot of noise.
The AR 3000 L battery pack and harness weighs about 9.5 kg. It seems quite heavy to pick up but once on your back is very comfortable and gives you plenty of running time. Using the AL 500 charger it takes around 170 minutes to recharge the battery to 80% capacity and 220 minutes back to full capacity.
The BGA 200 has a quick adjustment of the blower tube at the push of a button. For example, the blowpipe can be shortened in no time for use in narrow work areas - and can then be extended again just as quickly and easily. This enables comfortable work with high efficiency in all cleaning situations.
The cordless blower also has a comfortable throttle control system, allowing three operating speeds at a spin of a dial, also the blower had a locking device to free your trigger finger.
The BGA 200 was also less restrictive and could be easily handled into different blowing positions. As for noise I measured the decibel (DB) output while using both blowers and they came within the manufacturer’s guidelines.
I took both blowers to Harper Adams University, where Tim Robinson one of the gardens was keen to try them out. He said he particularly liked the BGA 200 battery-powered blower, mainly for its versatility and the fact that it would be a good acquisition for use around the accommodation areas because of its low noise levels. He also was impressed by how it coped with clearing the conkers off the bowling green.
A few days later, I manged to get the staff at Lilleshall Golf Club to have a go with both blowers. We tried them out on the 18th green where we cleaned up a fair few leaves from the bunkers, greens surrounds and fairway. This time the more powerful BR 450 C-EF was favoured, mainly due to its powerful blowing capacity and comfort of use. They particularly liked the ElectroStart button and the fact that it was more comfortable to use than their own BR 600 blower.
However, the club’s head greenkeeper, John Chantrell, saw the potential of the cordless model for use around the clubhouse due to its quietness and also perhaps for use on bunker faces to clean up surface debris, without disturbing the sand profile.
All in all, there was not much to choose from in terms of the ability of both blowers. It is again about choosing horses for courses. They are both comfortable to use, well-made and robust. As for cost the BR 450 C-EF has an RRP of £570.00, whereas the BGA 200 cordless blower costs £384.00 and will need an AR backpack battery. You can use any AR backpack battery to power the BGA 200, but STIHL recommends the AR 3000 L battery which can be bought as part of a set with the connecting cable for the BGA 200. You also need an AR L carrying system for this battery. Overall, this retails at £1599.00 for the battery / cable and £169.00 for the AR L carrying system, alongside the AL 500 charger which retails at £120.00. In essence, you are paying just under £2300 for the full kit including blower, battery, backpack, cable and charger.
However, once you have this power source you can use it to power additional STIHL AP System products such as their range of cordless brush cutters, grass trimmers, chainsaws, hedge trimmers and more.
You are effectively paying up front for your fuel, so depending on how well you treat your equipment over time, I believe there will not be much in it whichever system you buy. Although, with current climate change legislation coming into play, the future will likely be battery powered equipment. There is little doubt the range and availability of 2-MIX fuel propelled products will be on a decline in the coming years - especially when more investments are being made in battery power technologies.
To conclude, both products delivered on comfort and productivity - however, the BR 450 C-EF was defiantly a tad more powerful and a first choice for the greenkeepers. On the other hand, Tim Robinson, one of the gardeners from Harper Adams University, was more impressed with the versatility and handling ability and quietness of the BGA 200 and said it would be very useful when working around student blocks and teaching areas.
For me, I enjoyed using both blowers. However, I was more inclined to favour the BR 450 C-EF at this moment in time as it suited my needs better in my role as a landscape gardener. Cleaning up lawn scarification debris was made very easy and less back breaking. The ease of blowing this debris into a pile, rather than using a rake, was so satisfying.
I would like to thank everybody from Harper Adams and Lilleshall GC for helping evaluate these blowers and of course STIHL for giving me the opportunity to test these products.